CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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LOOKING GOOD

“Lookin’ good!”  We love to hear it said to us.  All of us, believers or not, have a desire to look good to others.  This desire is so strong within us that this pride/envy way about us expresses itself easily in our thoughts, spilling out into what we say.  Looking good to each other promotes exaggerating what is really real and what is truthfully going on.  Let’s call exaggerations for what they really are.  It is called lying in God’s thinking and God does not like liars.  He abhors false statements that lead people away from Truth.

Friends, as leaders in the church, we do it all the time!  When we talk with other leaders in God’s churches who also boast about “how many” they have on any given Sunday, the numbers are always exaggerated.  When we talk of how many are serving in the church, the numbers are rounded up when reported to others.  (We rarely ask each other what God is doing in our own lives to help us grow in His character!) When we lie (exaggerate) from the platform or in the hallways to the congregation we think that it will encouraging more from them, but when we lie the opposite happens, especially when people see what is really going on.  Trust is ruptured and is hard to rebuild.

When the illusion that we are successful overrides what is truth, we are in trouble. 

I’m reminded of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” We produce illusions with our lies.  God gives visions to those who will listen to understand in obedience to Him.  Jesus, God’s Son, was Truth and came to show us how to live a life pleasing to God.  So, what do we seek and what will we choose—man-made illusions or visions (revelations) from God?

Ezekiel points out, at least to me today, just how much we disappoint God when we lie—just to look good.

Ezekiel 13, The Message

People Who Love Listening to Lies

13 1-2 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, preach against the prophets of Israel who are making things up out of their own heads and calling it ‘prophesying.’

2-6 Preach to them the real thing. Tell them, ‘Listen to God’s Message!’ God, the Master, pronounces doom on the empty-headed prophets who do their own thing and know nothing of what’s going on! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals scavenging through the ruins. They haven’t lifted a finger to repair the defenses of the city and have risked nothing to help Israel stand on God’s Day of Judgment. All they do is fantasize comforting illusions and preach lying sermons. They say ‘God says . . .’ when God hasn’t so much as breathed in their direction. And yet they stand around thinking that something they said is going to happen.

7-9 “Haven’t you fantasized sheer nonsense? Aren’t your sermons tissues of lies, saying ‘God says . . .’ when I’ve done nothing of the kind? Therefore—and this is the Message of God, the Master, remember—I’m dead set against prophets who substitute illusions for visions and use sermons to tell lies. I’m going to ban them from the council of my people, remove them from membership in Israel, and outlaw them from the land of Israel. Then you’ll realize that I am God, the Master.

10-12 “The fact is that they’ve lied to my people. They’ve said, ‘No problem; everything’s just fine,’ when things are not at all fine. When people build a wall, they’re right behind them slapping on whitewash. Tell those who are slapping on the whitewash, ‘When a torrent of rain comes and the hailstones crash down and the hurricane sweeps in and the wall collapses, what’s the good of the whitewash that you slapped on so liberally, making it look so good?’

13-14 “And that’s exactly what will happen. I, God, the Master, say so: ‘I’ll let the hurricane of my wrath loose, a torrent of my hailstone-anger. I’ll make that wall you’ve slapped with whitewash collapse. I’ll level it to the ground so that only the foundation stones will be left. And in the ruin you’ll all die. You’ll realize then that I am God.

15-16 “‘I’ll dump my wrath on that wall, all of it, and on those who plastered it with whitewash. I will say to them, There is no wall, and those who did such a good job of whitewashing it wasted their time, those prophets of Israel who preached to Jerusalem and announced all their visions telling us things were just fine when they weren’t at all fine. Decree of God, the Master.’

17-19 “And the women prophets—son of man, take your stand against the women prophets who make up stuff out of their own minds. Oppose them. Say ‘Doom’ to the women who sew magic bracelets and head scarves to suit every taste, devices to trap souls. Say, ‘Will you kill the souls of my people, use living souls to make yourselves rich and popular? You have profaned me among my people just to get ahead yourselves, used me to make yourselves look good—killing souls who should never have died and coddling souls who shouldn’t live. You’ve lied to people who love listening to lies.’

20-21 Therefore God says, ‘I am against all the devices and techniques you use to hunt down souls. I’ll rip them out of your hands. I’ll free the souls you’re trying to catch. I’ll rip your magic bracelets and scarves to shreds and deliver my people from your influence so they’ll no longer be victimized by you. That’s how you’ll come to realize that I am God.

22-23 “‘Because you’ve confounded and confused good people, unsuspecting and innocent people, with your lies, and because you’ve made it easy for others to persist in evil so that it wouldn’t even dawn on them to turn to me so I could save them, as of now you’re finished. No more delusion-mongering from you, no more sermonic lies. I’m going to rescue my people from your clutches. And you’ll realize that I am God.’”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

“For the eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth, so that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

If we consistently chase the natural desire to “look good” we will always be at war with evil and ourselves. Evil delights in our fall to pride, envy and jealousy for he is the inventor of all that is not God. However, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)  Instead of spending wasted time and energy on lying to look good—SEEK all who is good alone and that is God.

We are all called to minister and our calling is serious.  “To be called of God and to speak His Word to His people is serious and should not be taken lightly. To assume a place of ministry without being called and gifted is arrogance, and to manufacture messages without receiving them from the Lord is impertinence. The false prophets in Ezekiel’s day were guilty of both. Popularity is not a test of truth. History shows that those who spoke the truth were usually rejected by the majority, persecuted, and even killed.” –Warren Wiersbe

The Ministry of Reconciliation—Who we are and what we do

“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Corinthians 5:11-21, NIV (Emphasis mine.)

  • Be reconciled to God through repenting to Jesus, His Son. 
  • Really believe that what God says and does is really real.  And we will be saved forever. 
  • Trust God.  God always says what He will do. 
  • God does not lie.  Jesus is Truth.  His Holy Spirit guides us in all that is truth.  We can rely on Him. 
  • “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
  • Instead of looking good, seek the only one who is good—God.

Lord,

Help us to run from the temptation to merely look good for the moment but to be reconciled to you who is good.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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PACK IT UP

God will do what He says He will do.  It doesn’t matter who we are and what we do really; what matters is who is God, are we with God, following in His ways, hearing and believing, seeing and praising Him as the One and Only God.  Are we rebels or realists when it comes to God.  God is real.  The question is:  Do we rebel against Him or really believe what God says to be really real?  Pack up your thoughts and camp on these thoughts.  Our behaviors will reflect what we really believe to be true.

Ezekiel 12, The Message

Put the Bundle on Your Shoulder and Walk into the Night

1-6 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, you’re living with a bunch of rebellious people. They have eyes but don’t see a thing, they have ears but don’t hear a thing. They’re rebels all. So, son of man, pack up your exile duffel bags. Leave in broad daylight with everyone watching and go off, as if into exile. Maybe then they’ll understand what’s going on, rebels though they are. You’ll take up your baggage while they watch, a bundle of the bare necessities of someone going into exile, and toward evening leave, just like a person going off into exile. As they watch, dig through the wall of the house and carry your bundle through it. In full sight of the people, put the bundle on your shoulder and walk out into the night. Cover your face so you won’t have to look at what you’ll never see again. I’m using you as a sign for the family of Israel.”

I did exactly as he commanded me. I got my stuff together and brought it out in the street where everyone could see me, bundled it up the way someone being taken off into exile would, and then, as the sun went down, made a hole in the wall of the house with my hands. As it grew dark and as they watched, I left, throwing my bundle across my shoulders.

8-10 The next morning God spoke to me: “Son of man, when anyone in Israel, that bunch of rebels, asks you, ‘What are you doing?’ Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says that this Message especially concerns the prince in Jerusalem—Zedekiah—but includes all the people of Israel.’

11 “Also tell them, ‘I am drawing a picture for you. As I am now doing, it will be done to all the people of Israel. They will go into exile as captives.’

12-15 “The prince will put his bundle on his shoulders in the dark and leave. He’ll dig through the wall of the house, covering his face so he won’t have to look at the land he’ll never see again. But I’ll make sure he gets caught and is taken to Babylon. Blinded, he’ll never see that land in which he’ll die. I’ll scatter to the four winds those who helped him escape, along with his troops, and many will die in battle. They’ll realize that I am God when I scatter them among foreign countries.

16 “I’ll permit a few of them to escape the killing, starvation, and deadly sickness so that they can confess among the foreign countries all the disgusting obscenities they’ve been involved in. They will realize that I am God.”

* * *

17-20 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, eat your meals shaking in your boots, drink your water trembling with fear. Tell the people of this land, everyone living in Jerusalem and Israel, God’s Message: ‘You’ll eat your meals shaking in your boots and drink your water in terror because your land is going to be stripped bare as punishment for the brutality rampant in it. All the cities and villages will be emptied out and the fields destroyed. Then you’ll realize that I am God.’

* * *

21-22 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, what’s this proverb making the rounds in the land of Israel that says, ‘Everything goes on the same as ever; all the prophetic warnings are false alarms’?

23-25 Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says, This proverb’s going to have a short life!’

“Tell them, ‘Time’s about up. Every warning is about to come true. False alarms and easygoing preaching are a thing of the past in the life of Israel. I, God, am doing the speaking. What I say happens. None of what I say is on hold. What I say, I’ll do—and soon, you rebels!’ Decree of God the Master.”

* * *

26-28 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, do you hear what Israel is saying: that the alarm the prophet raises is for a long time off, that he’s preaching about the far-off future? Well, tell them, ‘God, the Master, says, “Nothing of what I say is on hold. What I say happens.”’ Decree of God, the Master.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

When the Lord called Ezekiel, He warned him that he would be ministering to a rebellious people who were spiritually blind and deaf. In fact, Isaiah knew the same.  Prophets knew going in that they would be God’s mouthpiece to those who did not want to hear what God had to say.  In order to understand God’s truth, we must be obedient to God’s will, but Israel was far from being obedient.  This is rebellion.  Disobedience.

Another object lesson—

  • God told Ezekiel to play the part of a fugitive escaping from a war-torn city. Part of Ezekiel’s act occurred in the daytime and part at twilight.  The curious onlookers were curious but perplexed Jewish exiles watched his strange actions. 
  • Packing the knapsack and leaving it at a distance from his house conveyed the message that the leaders in Jerusalem were planning to flee for their lives. 
  • Digging through the wall from outside the house pictured the Babylonian army’s assault on the walls of Jerusalem.
  • That evening, when Ezekiel climbed out of the house through the hole and with the knapsack on his back, he depicted the Jewish leaders secretly trying to flee from the city to save their lives.
  • In the “final act”, Ezekiel ate his meal outside and continued the fugitive image. He ate his bread and drank his water—a frugal meal—while shaking and trembling as if in fear. He was illustrating the tragic condition of the people in Jerusalem during the Babylonian siege. 

What God says, He will certainly do—

The people were quoting a proverb that may have been devised by the false prophets to humiliate Ezekiel: “Everything goes on the same as ever; all the prophetic warnings are false alarms”. But they soon learned that what God says, He will do.  With God’s timing, appearances can certainly be misleading.  We must obey and wait.

Because Ezekiel’s prophecies had not been fulfilled immediately, the people were paying more attention to the false prophets than to the true Word of God. The visions of the false prophets were false and misleading, and they delivered only the soothing and encouraging words that the people wanted to hear (See Jeremiah for the same rendition of the same song). God made clear that His word would be fulfilled with no more delays.

God made it clear that Ezekiel’s words would be fulfilled very soon when He stated, “Nothing of what I say is on hold. What I say happens.”  Six years later, the Babylonian army breached the walls of Jerusalem, and Ezekiel’s predictions came true.

How tragic when people deliberately ignore or reject the dependable Word of God and put their faith in the empty but soothing words of false religious leaders!

Believe on the Name of Jesus and be saved.  Jesus IS coming back, you know.  That is our message for today.  Listen for the voice of the Lord over all other voices and obey.  Trust and obey for there’s no other way….

Lord,

Thank you for more and more words of wisdom from Ezekiel and the other prophets carried down through the generations until Jesus came, died, rose again to pay what we owe for living rebellious lives in sin.  Thank you for saving my soul and making me whole. Thank you for teaching us how to live by your example of how to love, showing mercy and grace.  That you for helping us steer away from all that is not you in this world.  We do not deserve what you have done for us.  I believe.  I trust you, dear Jesus.  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  Therefore, I am confident because of you in me.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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NEW HEART, MIND AND SOUL

We love going along and getting along with others, don’t we?  Quarreling with someone over the details of how to do something becomes exhausting so we avoid getting caught up in the conversation. But when wrong is brushed up and glossed over to look like right, we must stand up and say what is right, not for the fight, but because we care about the outcome of the lives of those around us.  This is the attitude that we must take when standing firm for what God says is right and good for our best life.  Paul reminds us to “Speak the Truth in love”.  Love guides the conversation because we are not concerned with winning the argument but with winning a soul for Christ.

When right looks good and seems right enough what do we do?  Do we go along just to keep the peace?  Is there a better way, a better plan?  I’m glad you asked.  (Pretty sure I heard you ask.)  In this world, evil has an uncanny knack at making lifestyles and ways of thinking look good, fun and oh so right in all walks of life, in all workplaces and in all churches where people gather to work, play, rest, eat, and relate.  But we must be careful and not be fooled.  If what seems right doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  If it is confusing, goes against what God’s Word says, then evil has a hold already. 

What do we do?  How do we know?  Ask God.  We are told to ask for wisdom, insight and understanding and God will give these precious gifts of discernment of right and wrong to us.  We ask God to point out what is really true, right and good according to His will and plan and His Holy Spirit living in us will guide and lead us.  This promise of guidance is forever.  We listen after the ask!  God will never let us down in our quest for His wisdom. 

Evil has become so obscene and perverted in Ezekiel’s day that God has “picked him up” and taken him above the world to “see” a vision of what is really going on in the minds of evil leaders, men who “draw up blueprints for sin” and lead others to sin.  God not only shows Ezekiel what is right but what to say against what is evil. 

God also delivers an encouraging promise to Ezekiel at the end of this “seeing” that shows us that God is always and forever in control over evil.  God wins.  Always. The promise is this:  I’ll give you a new heart. I’ll put a new spirit in you.  When we “clean house” of all that is not God, God returns to guide and lead us into all that is good for us.  The depth of love we have for God is measured in our obedience to Him.  We are His people; He is our One and Only God.  This is the most important relationship we will ever have and we must protect it at all costs.  It’s a matter of life or death!

Ezekiel 11, The Message

A New Heart and a New Spirit

11 Then the Spirit picked me up and took me to the gate of the Temple that faces east. There were twenty-five men standing at the gate. I recognized the leaders, Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah.

2-3 God said, “Son of man, these are the men who draw up blueprints for sin, who think up new programs for evil in this city. They say, ‘We can make anything happen here. We’re the best. We’re the choice pieces of meat in the soup pot.’

“Oppose them, son of man. Preach against them.”

5-6 Then the Spirit of God came upon me and told me what to say: “This is what God says: ‘That’s a fine public speech, Israel, but I know what you are thinking. You’ve murdered a lot of people in this city. The streets are piled high with corpses.’

7-12 “Therefore this is what God, the Master, says: ‘The corpses that you’ve piled in the streets are the meat and this city is the soup pot, and you’re not even in the pot! I’m throwing you out! You fear war, but war is what you’re going to get. I’m bringing war against you. I’m throwing you out of this city, giving you over to foreigners, and punishing you good. You’ll be killed in battle. I’ll carry out judgment on you at the borders of Israel. Then you’ll realize that I am God. This city will not be your soup pot and you won’t be the choice pieces of meat in it either. Hardly. I will carry out judgment on you at the borders of Israel and you’ll realize that I am God, for you haven’t followed my statutes and ordinances. Instead of following my ways, you’ve sunk to the level of the laws of the nations around you.’”

13 Even while I was preaching, Pelatiah son of Benaiah died. I fell down, face to the ground, and prayed loudly, “O Master, God! Will you completely wipe out what’s left of Israel?”

14-15 The answer from God came back: “Son of man, your brothers—I mean the whole people of Israel who are in exile with you—are the people of whom the citizens of Jerusalem are saying, ‘They’re in the far country, far from God. This land has been given to us to own.’

16-20 “Well, tell them this, ‘This is your Message from God, the Master. True, I sent you to the far country and scattered you through other lands. All the same, I’ve provided you a temporary sanctuary in the countries where you’ve gone. I will gather you back from those countries and lands where you’ve been scattered and give you back the land of Israel. You’ll come back and clean house, throw out all the rotten images and obscene idols. I’ll give you a new heart. I’ll put a new spirit in you. I’ll cut out your stone heart and replace it with a red-blooded, firm-muscled heart. Then you’ll obey my statutes and be careful to obey my commands. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!

21 “‘But not those who are self-willed and addicted to their rotten images and obscene idols! I’ll see that they’re paid in full for what they’ve done.’ Decree of God, the Master.”

22-23 Then the cherubim spread their wings, with the wheels beside them and the Glory of the God of Israel hovering over them. The Glory of God ascended from within the city and rested on the mountain to the east of the city.

* * *

24-25 Then, still in the vision given me by the Spirit of God, the Spirit took me and carried me back to the exiles in Babylon. And then the vision left me. I told the exiles everything that God had shown me.

Lord,

Give us your spirit of discernment for the world we live in right now.  Show us and teach us your ways, your will along with your plan for our good and best life.  I love you with all my heart, mind, and soul.  I love hearing from you!  Renew my mind, cleanse my heart and fill my soul with all of you in all of me.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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FILLLED WITH THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Holy is the Lord, God Almighty
The earth is filled with His glory
Holy is the Lord, God Almighty
The earth is filled with His glory
The earth is filled with His glory

Yeah, it’s rising up all around
It’s the anthem of the Lord’s renown
It’s rising up all around
It’s the anthem of the Lord’s renown

Together we sing
And everyone sing

Holy is the Lord, God Almighty
The earth is filled with His glory…

(Excerpt from Holy is the Lord by Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio)

This is the anthem I hear in the background of the reading today as the Glory of God ascends and fills The Temple in Ezekiel’s vision of what is to come for Israel.

Ezekiel 10, The Message

The Temple, Filled with the Presence of God

10 When I next looked, oh! Above the dome over the heads of the cherubim-angels was what looked like a throne, sky-blue, like a sapphire!

2-5 God said to the man dressed in linen, “Enter the place of the wheels under the cherubim-angels. Fill your hands with burning coals from beneath the cherubim and scatter them over the city.”

I watched as he entered. The cherubim were standing on the south side of the Temple when the man entered. A cloud filled the inside courtyard. Then the Glory of God ascended from the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the Temple. The cloud filled the Temple. Court and Temple were both filled with the blazing presence of the Glory of God. And the sound! The wings of the cherubim were audible all the way to the outer court—the sound of the voice was like The Strong God in thunder.

6-8 When God commanded the man dressed in linen, “Take fire from among the wheels, from between the cherubim,” he went in and stood beside a wheel. One of the cherubim reached into the fire, took some coals, and put them in the hands of the man dressed in linen. He took them and went out. Something that looked like a human hand could be seen under the wings of the cherubim.

9-13 And then I saw four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub. The wheels radiating were sparkling like diamonds in the sun. All four wheels looked alike, each like a wheel within a wheel. When they moved, they went in any of the four directions but in a perfectly straight line. Where the cherubim went, the wheels went straight ahead. The cherubim were full of eyes in their backs, hands, and wings. The wheels likewise were full of eyes. I heard the wheels called “wheels within wheels.”

14 Each of the cherubim had four faces: the first, of an angel; the second, a human; the third, a lion; the fourth, an eagle.

15-17 Then the cherubim ascended. They were the same living creatures I had seen at the Kebar River. When the cherubim moved, the wheels beside them moved. When the cherubim spread their wings to take off from the ground, the wheels stayed right with them. When the cherubim stopped, the wheels stopped. When the cherubim rose, the wheels rose, because the spirit of the living creatures was also in the wheels.

18-19 Then the Glory of God left the Temple entrance and hovered over the cherubim. I watched as the cherubim spread their wings and left the ground, the wheels right with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Temple. The Glory of the God of Israel was above them.

20-22 These were the same living creatures I had seen previously beneath the God of Israel at the Kebar River. I recognized them as cherubim. Each had four faces and four wings. Under their wings were what looked like human hands. Their faces looked exactly like those I had seen at the Kebar River. Each went straight ahead.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

In response to Ezekiel’s concern and prayer, the Lord revealed His glory once again in the same vision he had went he first encountered God’s Glory.  The burning coals were significant.  Not only would the city be visited by famine, pestilence, and sword, but it would be burned by the Babylonian army. This was not a fire of purification, such as Isaiah experienced (Is. 6:5–7), but a fire of condemnation and judgment for their obscene acts of perverted sins.

“One new feature is the fact that the living creatures “were full of eyes all around” just like the wheels, which suggests God’s omniscience. God’s providential working in this world is not aimless or haphazard. Everything is done by the One who ‘works all things according to the counsel of His will’”. (Ephesians 1:11). –Warren Wiersbe, Wiersbe Study Bible

Ezekiel was learning that the most important part of the nation’s life was to magnify the glory of God. The presence of God in the sanctuary was a great privilege for the people of Israel to see and feel the Glory of God, but it was also a great responsibility. The glory of God cannot dwell with the sins of God’s people.  So, the Glory of God left the sanctuary and sin-filled people were judged.

Before Jesus came to earth people were lost without God.  People had little to no relationship with God.  Access to God was broken.  Why?  Simply because of their sins that stood between God and mankind.  God cannot be or dwell where sin is living.  God still loved His created people so He made a way for mankind and this sin problem to be reconciled once and for all the people of the earth.  God wanted to reconnect with us!  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

Jesus, His only Son, God in flesh, came to earth, leaving His glory behind, to dwell with mankind.  He came “not to be served but to serve”.  He came to seek and to save the lost.  Jesus was and is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Jesus pointed the way to God in all that he said and did.  His final mission was to pay for our sins, not in part but the whole, once and for all. Jesus sacrificed his life and stood in our place of judgment for our sins and laid down his life and took our punishment.  Those who believe are redeemed and set free.  Debt paid in full.

WE are God’s Temple

Jesus now lives in all who believe in all that He is, said and did for us.  He forgave all our sins and set us free to love like He loves—without conditions.  Paul describes our bodies as temples in which God’s glory can now dwell as believers, saved by the grace of God through Jesus, His Son.  God no longer desires a building but he desires us!

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.  1 Corinthians 3:16-17

When we repent of sins, our sins are forgiven!  The glory of God, His Holy Spirit, comes to live in us!  Wow!  What a blessed thought!  My sins forgiven—all of them—and the glory of God lives in me!  Holy is the Lord, God Almighty indeed!

Paul goes to emphasize the responsibility we have as believers with whom Christ dwells in His glory within us as His “temple” …

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Upon forgiveness from our sins, God helps us to flee from sin, resist the temptations to sin and avoid allowing the sins of the past to revisit His temple—us!  His Holy Spirit living in us will help us when we ask.  Remember God cannot and will not live where sin resides. If we desire God to live in us, then we need to repent and clean house, the temple—us.

One final thought from Paul, the Apostle of Jesus, who teaches us…

“This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.”  Colossians 1:26-29, Msg

Yes, Paul, we hear you, it is just that simple.  Believe and be saved.  Forever.  Keep the temple clean for God’s Presence. 

Lord,

Create in me a clean heart in which you can enter in and live forever.  Renew my spirit with Your Holy Spirit.  Restore the joy of your salvation in and through me.  May my face reflect the Light of your glory and grace. 

In Jesus Name, Amen

And I’m singing…

Lord prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
And with thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
Sanctuary, oh for You

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MARKED

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you washed in the blood?
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

I want to tell you a story of the time Randy and I accepted a request to come as speakers for a church youth camp in another state.  This camp was located much farther north from where we had directed camps in our home state.  We were accustomed to teens behaviors and the need for fun as they learned, so we thought we were prepared.  We completed directing the camp in our home state with a bevy of incredible staff around us.  So sure, going to do what God gave us to do in another state seemed fun. 

However, we learned quickly, in the first hours of arrival, that we (the two of us) were the “staff” over all their teens.  This meant that our work was to not only be the speakers but included being with the teens 24/7 as counselors in the dorms, prepare other games and activities during the day, lead worship and watch over them as they ate their meals.  This was not fully disclosed in the original “ask.”  But, no problem, kids are kids, God gave us lessons we had used for the youth in our home state, so we were armed and ready to do the work.  Then we met the teens. 

Most of the teens brought (or dumped in some cases) by extended family expected us to “save their souls” and make ‘em behave.  Alrighty, then.  The attitude of both teens and family were going to be a challenge.  Still, not to worry, Randy and I were public school teachers, we know challenging circumstances.  We took this in stride and adjusted our plans–greatly.  Because of past experiences as youth workers and school teachers, God had given us an arsenal of activities in our life time of service to Him. 

Then we met them as a group.  They had looks that could kill on their faces that would challenge any teacher.  They pushed each other around as the “pecking order” for the week was being established.  This happens in any group of people you put together.  That was expected.  What was not expected was the level of meanness and the darkness that seem to come in the door with most of them.  Being a “sheltered” servant, I suppose, Randy and I agreed this was our first experience of being in a small room with a clear and present Darkness of evil face to face.  It threw us, but it did not overwhelm us.  As we worshiped together the first night, it became evident we were entering a war with Satan and his demons for the souls of these teens.  Obscenities became louder than worship.

After the service, Randy and went to a room to pray, to cry out to God, actually.  Lord, what have we gotten ourselves into?  Why did you send us here?  What are we to do, how are we to say what you want to those who refuse to hear?  Everything changed—first in us.  This was lesson one for us.  Never assume that what you have prepared for one group, even though effective, will be “just as good” for another.  We took the basic elements and changed how we presented it. 

Darkness had a hold on these kids.  Even as we worshiped, one young lady at the back mocked all the words of the songs of worship we sang.  This is just one example, so you can get a feel of the room.  The second night we challenged the Darkness.  We saw a glimpse of “Light” from the eyes of a few gathered there.  We zeroed in on their Light, though dim.  They seemed to be begging for help and we wanted to reach out to them.  Randy ended his talk that night, not with a warning or punishment but with a call to learn and grow, while dismissing those who did not want to be there.  “Leave, go away, for right now.” “We see God in some of you who want more, so stay for a few minutes and let’s talk.”  I know this sounds like a weird “call to meet Jesus,” but it worked. 

Darkness was asked to leave and it went out with the mockers and bullies.  We stayed with the “remnant” who cried and thanked us.  (I’m tearing up in emotion just to remember this time of challenging the Darkness!)  We prayed together for God’s intervention to deliver us from the Darkness that presented as “bullies” of our faith in Him.  We prayed for words of wisdom and insights for our behaviors as representatives of our Savior, Jesus.

After prayer and talking for over an hour, the remnant, “marked” as God’s Light, became more confident.  Their timid, bowed heads, turned upward with smiles on their faces.  God reigns, no matter the number, and His glory was seen that night.  We took them on as “staff” for the week.  They faced the bullies with strength because of knowing Jesus was living powerfully in them.  Interestingly, The teens who left looked in the windows from the outside wondering what was going on. 

Sometimes you just keep doing what God asks, and you wait.  We did what God asked us to do, said what He wanted us to say, even when it surprised even us.  We loved on the bullies prompted by the Darkness (which threw them off guard) while we encouraged the “children of Light.”  The last night of camp together in worship, we provided the opportunity to wash each other’s feet as Jesus did and took communion together.  Randy explicitly gave them a choice without cause for reprisal or reprimand.  “Do this only because you want to and because you love Jesus and want to become like Him.” 

As those “of the Light” came to sit in the circles, one for boys and one for girls, we waited for others to join.  We went on with the service of feet washing, explaining why Jesus washed the dirty feet of his disciples.  One by one, those from the Darkness timidly got up from their chairs and joined the circle with tears rolling down their faces.  God was in charge.  God was honored.  Jesus was declared King above all!  Hallelujah! 

I must ask, are you “marked” for Jesus?  I pray you are and that people know you are marked as one of His.

Ezekiel 9, The Message

A Mark on the Forehead

Then I heard him call out loudly, “Executioners, come! And bring your deadly weapons with you.”

Six men came down the road from the upper gate that faces north, each carrying his lethal weapon. With them was a man dressed in linen with a writing case slung from his shoulder. They entered and stood by the bronze altar.

3-4 The Glory of the God of Israel ascended from his usual place above the cherubim-angels, moved to the threshold of the Temple, and called to the man with the writing case who was dressed in linen: “Go through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the forehead of everyone who is in anguish over the outrageous obscenities being done in the city.”

5-6 I listened as he went on to address the executioners: “Follow him through the city and kill. Feel sorry for no one. Show no compassion. Kill old men and women, young men and women, mothers and children. But don’t lay a hand on anyone with the mark. Start at my Temple.”

They started with the leaders in front of the Temple.

7-8 He told the executioners, “Desecrate the Temple. Fill it with corpses. Then go out and continue the killing.” So they went out and struck the city.

While the massacre went forward, I was left alone. I fell on my face in prayer: “Oh, oh, God, my Master! Are you going to kill everyone left in Israel in this pouring out of your anger on Jerusalem?”

9-10 He said, “The guilt of Israel and Judah is enormous. The land is swollen with murder. The city is bloated with injustice. They all say, ‘God has forsaken the country. He doesn’t see anything we do.’ Well, I do see, and I’m not feeling sorry for any of them. They’re going to pay for what they’ve done.”

11 Just then, the man dressed in linen and carrying the writing case came back and reported, “I’ve done what you told me.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Not all the teens at that camp came forward.  Not all were saved from walking in Darkness but they were presented with the Light that dispels darkness for life.  Most received Jesus and decided He was better than walking in darkness.  We pray and obey and God does the rest.

Ezekiel’s message, and delivering it must have broken his heart. After reading the Book of Lamentations and seeing how thoroughly the Lord “dealt in fury” with His people we feel his broken heart. Jeremiah was an eyewitness of the destruction of Jerusalem, and what Ezekiel predicted, Jeremiah saw fulfilled. 

Lost people in our world should break our hearts.  Pray for the lost.  Be the Light of Jesus who reflects from our being so they will know and be drawn to Him, too.  Never give up.  Be marked for Christ forever!

This is my prayer, In Jesus Name, Amen

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FACE TO FACE

In most instances, a child caught in the act of misbehaving immediately responds with “It wasn’t me” followed by “Everyone else was doing it” and ends with “I’m sorry”.

It begins with just wanting to get along with those around us.  It grows to wanting to join in on what is being done because we want to be accepted, too.  After a while of playing along, we become enthralled by all it has to offer to satisfy our basic needs, and it becomes our new normal and it’s okay.  We’re believe we’re not really hurting anyone.  We’re still making a living and putting food on the table, so how wrong can this lifestyle be? 

Occasionally, we might stop for a minute to think about what we are doing with our past knowledge of learning about God but we shrugged off what we knew for we have attached ourselves to what is it is now.  It is not right but is it so wrong if we don’t get caught? We gloss it up and make it look good.  We justify it with thinking that if every is doing it and surviving and thriving, it must be okay.  Look at how we are prospering, look how we are getting along as a society, look how it has made us look good to others who also want to look good.  What is it?  It is called sin and stands between God and mankind.

Ezekiel is gripped by God with a message that brings mankind face to face with his sin.

Ezekiel 8, The Message

The Spirit Carried Me in Visions

1-4 In the sixth year, in the sixth month and the fifth day, while I was sitting at home meeting with the leaders of Judah, it happened that the hand of my Master, God, gripped me. When I looked, I was astonished. What I saw looked like a man—from the waist down like fire and from the waist up like highly burnished bronze. He reached out what looked like a hand and grabbed me by the hair. The Spirit swept me high in the air and carried me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the Temple’s inside court where the image of the sex goddess that makes God so angry had been set up. Right before me was the Glory of the God of Israel, exactly like the vision I had seen out on the plain.

He said to me, “Son of man, look north.” I looked north and saw it: Just north of the entrance loomed the altar of the sex goddess, Asherah, that makes God so angry.

Then he said, “Son of man, do you see what they’re doing? Outrageous obscenities! And doing them right here! It’s enough to drive me right out of my own Temple. But you’re going to see worse yet.”

* * *

He brought me to the door of the Temple court. I looked and saw a gaping hole in the wall.

He said, “Son of man, dig through the wall.”

I dug through the wall and came upon a door.

He said, “Now walk through the door and take a look at the obscenities they’re engaging in.”

10-11 I entered and looked. I couldn’t believe my eyes: Painted all over the walls were pictures of reptiles and animals and monsters—the whole pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses—being worshiped by Israel. In the middle of the room were seventy of the leaders of Israel, with Jaazaniah son of Shaphan standing in the middle. Each held his censer with the incense rising in a fragrant cloud.

12 He said, “Son of man, do you see what the elders are doing here in the dark, each one before his favorite god-picture? They tell themselves, ‘God doesn’t see us. God has forsaken the country.’”

13 Then he said, “You’re going to see worse yet.”

* * *

14-15 He took me to the entrance at the north gate of the Temple of God. I saw women sitting there, weeping for Tammuz, the Babylonian fertility god. He said, “Have you gotten an eyeful, son of man? You’re going to see worse yet.”

* * *

16 Finally, he took me to the inside court of the Temple of God. There between the porch and the altar were about twenty-five men. Their backs were to God’s Temple. They were facing east, bowing in worship to the sun.

17-18 He said, “Have you seen enough, son of man? Isn’t it bad enough that Judah engages in these outrageous obscenities? They fill the country with violence and now provoke me even further with their obscene gestures. That’s it. They have an angry God on their hands! From now on, no mercy. They can shout all they want, but I’m not listening.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND TODAY?

Above everything else, God’s servants need to focus on the glory of God. Ezekiel was “gripped by God” and taken to see the sins of God’s people face to face.  This was God’s way of affirming the call He had given to Ezekeil to proclaim Truth.  Even the leaders, hid in the dark, to promote the obscenities of their perverted sins.  Who will tell the Truth, stand on Truth as a solid foundation, and live Truth? Ezekiel!  Today it is all who believe and call on the Name of Truth—Jesus, God’s Son. 

When all around us gives way to evil’s thinking and behaviors, who will stand, livea and speak Truth, by God’s leading of His Holy Spirit, to bring us all face to face with the sin that wants to destroy our relationship with God?  Who loves me enough to bring me face to face with my sin in order to save me from it?  Who do I love enough to help find, believe, and follow Jesus so they will be rescued from sin’s hold on them?

When we are gripped by grace the answer is you and I.  We are the ones, saved by grace, to lead others to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  Because of Jesus, we are all called and commanded to tell and live the Truth.  (See Matthew 28, 2 Corinthians 5)

God still cares and watches over us as He calls us to tell the story of redemption through Jesus, His Son.  God’s servants may think that their greatest need is to see new visions and hear new voices, but the Lord doesn’t always work that way. Instead, He often meets the need by giving us a fresh experience of the original call. The Lord reminded Ezekiel that God was still on the throne by allowing him to see His glory at work!  God does that for us, too!  Seeing God’s glory at work around us and in us shows us His continued providential care and relentless love for us.  What more did Ezekiel need to know?  What more do we need to know?

When God brings us face to face with our own sins, what do we do?  Deny, hide, and justify or humble ourselves before him, repent and be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb who died for all our sins?  The latter has much grander benefits.  It’s a matter of life or death, really.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul

It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul…

Lord,

Thank you for bringing me face to face with my sins.  How foolish to think that my sin wasn’t as bad as other’s sins.  How wrong to think my sins could be hidden.  I would rather be in your grip of grace than be chained to sin.  Thank you for saving my soul and making me whole.  Thank you for showing me your glory at work in my life and in those around me.  You’re not finished with us yet.  Your story still needs to be told.  Until we see you face to face, grow us in your love, mercy and grace.

In Jesus Name, Amen

The guilty nation could cry out for mercy, but God would not listen to them, and they couldn’t appeal to a higher court. He had given them opportunity after opportunity to turn from their sins, but they refused to listen; now He wouldn’t listen to them. 

Camp on that thought for a minute.  

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A NATION’S FATE

“What goes around, comes around!”  “What you do comes back to haunt you!”  “Don’t dish out what you can’t take!”  “Those who do evil are repaid with evil!”  We call it the boomerang effect.  Some call it karma; I call it God preserving and protecting what is good and giving justice to what is evil. 

Good and evil.  Movies, novels and even sitcoms reflect the war between good and evil.  At the end of the story, we applaud when evil gets what is coming to them, right?  In fact, we won’t watch or read it unless evil gets what is coming to them!  We like things wrapped up in a tidy package of good.  Maybe that’s just me but I doubt it. 

Good and evil is also constant war within ourselves, too, isn’t it?

Ezekiel proclaims God’s judgement with Israel’s impending fate… “I’ll make you pay for the way you’ve lived: Your disgusting obscenities will boomerang on you, and you’ll realize that I am God.”

As we read the fate of a nation whose thinking and behavior has degraded to all that is evil because they have turned from all that is God, I think of what Jesus said when he came to earth to explain and fulfill the meaning of God’s commandments.  Many times, Jesus began with “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” pointing out that sometimes believers obey only to look good but do not realize the meaning behind the behavior because they don’t really know the One who desires a relationship with us!  (See Matthew 5-7).  Evil has won when our relationship with God is broken.

Ezekiel 7, The Message

Fate Has Caught Up with You

1-4 God’s Word came to me, saying, “You, son of man—God, the Master, has this Message for the land of Israel:

“‘Endtime.
    The end of business as usual for everyone.
It’s all over. The end is upon you.
    I’ve launched my anger against you.
I’ve issued my verdict on the way you live.
    I’ll make you pay for your disgusting obscenities.
I won’t look the other way,
    I won’t feel sorry for you.
I’ll make you pay for the way you’ve lived:
    Your disgusting obscenities will boomerang on you,
    and you’ll realize that I am God.’

5-9 “I, God, the Master, say:
    ‘Disaster after disaster! Look, it comes!
Endtime—
    the end comes.
The end is ripe. Watch out, it’s coming!
    This is your fate, you who live in this land.
Time’s up.
    It’s zero hour.
No dragging of feet now,
    no bargaining for more time.
Soon now I’ll pour my wrath on you,
    pay out my anger against you,
Render my verdict on the way you’ve lived,
    make you pay for your disgusting obscenities.
I won’t look the other way,
    I won’t feel sorry for you.
I’ll make you pay for the way you’ve lived.
    Your disgusting obscenities will boomerang on you.
Then you’ll realize
    that it is I, God, who have hit you.

10-13 “‘Judgment Day!
    Fate has caught up with you.

The scepter outsized and pretentious,
    pride bursting all bounds,
Violence strutting,
    brandishing the evil scepter.
But there’s nothing to them,
    and nothing will be left of them.
Time’s up.
    Countdown: five, four, three, two . . . 
Buyer, don’t boast; seller, don’t worry:
    Judgment wrath has turned the world topsy-turvy.
The bottom has dropped out of buying and selling.
    It will never be the same again.
But don’t fantasize an upturn in the market.
    The country is bankrupt because of its sins,
    and it’s not going to get any better.

14-16 “‘The trumpet signals the call to battle:
    “Present arms!”
But no one marches into battle.
    My wrath has them paralyzed!
On the open roads you’re killed,
    or else you go home and die of hunger and disease.
Either get murdered out in the country
    or die of sickness or hunger in town.
Survivors run for the hills.
    They moan like doves in the valleys,
Each one moaning
    for his own sins.

17-18 “‘Every hand hangs limp,
    every knee turns to rubber.
They dress in rough burlap—
    sorry scarecrows,
Shifty and shamefaced,
    with their heads shaved bald.

19-27 “‘They throw their money into the gutters.
    Their hard-earned cash stinks like garbage.
They find that it won’t buy a thing
    they either want or need on Judgment Day.
They tripped on money
    and fell into sin.

Proud and pretentious with their jewels,
    they deck out their vile and vulgar no-gods in finery.
    I’ll make those god-obscenities a stench in their nostrils.
I’ll give away their religious junk—
    strangers will pick it up for free,
    the godless spit on it and make jokes.
I’ll turn my face so I won’t have to look
    as my treasured place and people are violated,
As violent strangers walk in
    and desecrate place and people—
A bloody massacre,
    as crime and violence fill the city.
I’ll bring in the dregs of humanity
    to move into their houses.
I’ll put a stop to the boasting and strutting
    of the high-and-mighty,
And see to it that there’ll be nothing holy
    left in their holy places.
Catastrophe descends. They look for peace,
    but there’s no peace to be found—
Disaster on the heels of disaster,
    one rumor after another.

They clamor for the prophet to tell them what’s up,
    but nobody knows anything.
Priests don’t have a clue;
    the elders don’t know what to say.
The king holds his head in despair;
    the prince is devastated.
The common people are paralyzed.
    Gripped by fear, they can’t move.
I’ll deal with them where they are,
    judge them on their terms.
    They’ll know that I am God.’”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESOND?

All God saw was evil disobedience and defilement of all that was good.  Israel had disobeyed the law, defied their Lord, and defiled the land, and God would not accept that kind of conduct. First, He had punished them in their land by permitting seven enemy nations to occupy the land and oppress the people, as recorded in the Book of Judges. But each time, after God had delivered Israel from their oppressors, the Jews eventually had returned to the worship of idols. So, God finally took them away from the land, some through death and others through exile in Babylon. This story is tragic, but it reminds us that the Lord is serious about His covenant and our obedience.

Jesus further clarifies who God is and what He will do when “fate” catches up with each one of us in the Final Judgement:

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters you were doing it to me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”  Matthew 25:31-46, NLT

Who we are, what we do to others is the same as who we are and what we do to God! 

Our relationship with God because of believing and following Jesus, should be our motivator for all we think, say, and do.  It is more than “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It is knowing that what we do we do to God! 

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7

Lord,

Help us to love like you love us.  Help us to realize that every action we take in your Name is done not only to help others but is done unto you!  May we truly digest this truth.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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THEN THEY WILL KNOW

Ezekiel the watchman was warning the people that an invasion was coming because God had seen their sins and was about to punish them.  The people had turned to all the world around them had to offer—idols of man that promoted behaviors that would soon destroy their souls.  Sin is all that is not of God.  Sins of perversion hurt from the inside out and outside in, destroying the body with sicknesses while killing all that stands in the way of a voracious appetite to satisfy self. 

At the end of it all, and there is an end which leads to death, there is disgust and dismay that seeps in like a cancer.  All that is God with all that is good for has been abandoned.  When mankind’s sin becomes so great it disgusts us as much as it disgusts God who has the opposite life waiting for us to grab hold of; then it is time to repent before our sins lead us to death.  Only then will they know God and the full extent of His unconditional love, compassionate mercy and relentless grace. 

I pray that our sins become so disgusting to us that we run to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing.  I pray that we lean on God’s Holy Spirit who gives us power and wisdom to never turn back to the disgusting mess we were in before He saved us.  I trust in Jesus to help us by His Spirit in our new life with God, the Father.  Then we will know just how incredibly loved we are by the One and Only who loved us first and forever.

Ezekiel 6, The Message

Turn Israel into Wasteland

1-7 Then the Word of God came to me: “Son of man, now turn and face the mountains of Israel and preach against them: ‘O Mountains of Israel, listen to the Message of God, the Master. God, the Master, speaks to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and the valleys: I’m about to destroy your sacred god and goddess shrines. I’ll level your altars, bust up your sun-god pillars, and kill your people as they bow down to your no-god idols. I’ll stack the dead bodies of Israelites in front of your idols and then scatter your bones around your shrines. Every place where you’ve lived, the towns will be torn down and the pagan shrines demolished—altars busted up, idols smashed, all your custom-made sun-god pillars in ruins. Corpses everywhere you look! Then you’ll know that I am God.

8-10 “‘But I’ll let a few escape the killing as you are scattered through other lands and nations. In the foreign countries where they’re taken as prisoners of war, they’ll remember me. They’ll realize how devastated I was by their betrayals, by their voracious lust for gratifying themselves in their idolatries. They’ll be disgusted with their evil ways, disgusting to God in the way they’ve lived. They’ll know that I am God. They’ll know that my judgment against them was no empty threat.

11-14 “‘This is what God, the Master, says: Clap your hands, stamp your feet, yell out, “No, no, no!” because of all the evil obscenities rife in Israel. They’re going to be killed, dying of hunger, dying of disease—death everywhere you look, people dropping like flies, people far away dying, people nearby dying, and whoever’s left in the city starving to death. Why? Because I’m angry, furiously angry. They’ll realize that I am God when they see their people’s corpses strewn over and around all their ruined sex-and-religion shrines on the bare hills and in the lush fertility groves, in all the places where they indulged their sensual rites. I’ll bring my hand down hard on them, demolish the country wherever they live, turn it into wasteland from one end to the other, from the wilderness to Riblah. Then they’ll know that I am God!’”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND TODAY?

Ezekiel was instructed to “face” the mountains, hills, ravines, and valleys of the land because the idolatry of Israel had defiled them. Of course, the physical terrain itself had not sinned but the Jewish people who had polluted the Holy Land by erecting their “idols all around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every thick oak.” 

Idols became the gods they worshipped because manmade idols gave them permission to sin in all kinds of perverted ways.  They even sacrificed their children to these idols along with other orgies of evil. God was all but forgotten.  But God would remind them who He is and who was still in control over His created by cleansing the land of the sin that made life ugly and disgusting—even to the sinners! 

We have idols we worship without thinking.  Stop and think, then.  What idols get in the way of our full attention and worship of God?  What will it take for God to get our attention?

“Against the background of this nationwide slaughter, Ezekiel reminded the people of the grace of God in sparing a remnant, a topic that he had illustrated when he had put some of the shaved hair in the hem of his garment (chapter 5). He would mention the remnant again in subsequent chapters. That a remnant of faithful people would be spared was part of the covenant promise of God.” –Warren Wiersbe, Wiersbe Study Bible

In our world, are we behaving as the believing “remnant” who will never turn from God or behaving like those who have forgotten God?

We have only two choices.  We do or we don’t believe God. So, the question we must ask ourselves daily for clarification of our relationship with God is this: 

Do I really believe who God is and what God says really real? 

The answer to this question will be reflected in our thinking and behaving all day long, every day of our lives on earth.  Our decided choice is a matter of life or death forever. 

Lord,

I pray for all who are reading this to really know You personally with hearts desires to hear your voice above all other voices this world is shouting to us daily.  I pray obedience follows our hearing of You quickly.  May we run to you, be with you, love you back and wait for your words of direction.  I choose you because of your love for me.  There is no one like you!  You are God alone and desire all our attention and praise with grateful hearts.  Transform us daily to more and more like you, dear Jesus.  Thank you for saving us from ourselves.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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HEART CONDITION

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”—Jesus        (Matt 23:37)

Rebellion is a heart disease. When the heart is sick, the body shows heart disease in how it performs day to day. God’s people had forgotten His law and commandments. They never developed a love that transformed their hearts. They had traditional ceremonies that looked like they were followers of God, but they also practiced worship of other gods in the Temple of the Most High.

I find a warning message for our time inside Ezekiel. God’s judgment is coming upon our world. Our nation professes to love God, but does not keep His commandments. He longs to bring us under His wing and shield us from the evils being unleashed on this planet, but only a remnant will be attached to His side.

“Under His wings I am safely abiding; though the night deepens and tempests are wild, Still I can trust Him, I know He will keep me, He has redeemed me, and I am HIS child!”

Written by Cheri Holmes
Emergency Nurse RN, Lynden, Washington USA

Ezekiel 5, The Message

A Jealous God, Not to Be Trifled With

1-2 “Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a straight razor, shaving your head and your beard. Then, using a set of balancing scales, divide the hair into thirds. When the days of the siege are over, take one-third of the hair and burn it inside the city. Take another third, chop it into bits with the sword and sprinkle it around the city. The final third you’ll throw to the wind. Then I’ll go after them with a sword.

3-4 “Retrieve a few of the hairs and slip them into your pocket. Take some of them and throw them into the fire—burn them up. From them, fire will spread to the whole family of Israel.

5-6 “This is what God, the Master, says: This means Jerusalem. I set her at the center of the world, all the nations ranged around her. But she rebelled against my laws and ordinances, rebelled far worse than the nations ranged around her—sheer wickedness!—refused my guidance, ignored my directions.

“Therefore this is what God, the Master, says: You’ve been more headstrong and willful than any of the nations around you, refusing my guidance, ignoring my directions. You’ve sunk to the gutter level of those around you.

8-10 “Therefore this is what God, the Master, says: I’m setting myself against you—yes, against you, Jerusalem. I’m going to punish you in full sight of the nations. Because of your disgusting no-god idols, I’m going to do something to you that I’ve never done before and will never do again: turn families into cannibals—parents eating children, children eating parents! Punishment indeed. And whoever’s left over I’ll throw to the winds.

11-12 “Therefore, as sure as I am the living God—Decree of God, the Master—because you’ve polluted my Sanctuary with your obscenities and disgusting no-god idols, I’m pulling out. Not an ounce of pity will I show you. A third of your people will die of either disease or hunger inside the city, a third will be killed outside the city, and a third will be thrown to the winds and chased by killers.

13 “Only then will I calm down and let my anger cool. Then you’ll know that I was serious about this all along, that I’m a jealous God and not to be trifled with.

14-15 “When I get done with you, you’ll be a pile of rubble. Nations who walk by will make coarse jokes. When I finish my angry punishment and searing rebukes, you’ll be reduced to an object of ridicule and mockery, turned into a horror story circulating among the surrounding nations. I, God, have spoken.

16-17 “When I shoot my lethal famine arrows at you, I’ll shoot to kill. Then I’ll step up the famine and cut off food supplies. Famine and more famine—and then I’ll send in the wild animals to finish off your children. Epidemic disease, unrestrained murder, death—and I will have sent it! I, God, have spoken.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

  1. God is a jealous God who wants our full attention so He can bless us with all that is God.  Anything that we allow to stand in the middle of our view of God is an idol that needs to be removed from our lives.
  2. God is a jealous God because it grieves His heart to see our wickedness that destroys His created when He knows the plans He has for us “not to harm us but to prosper us”.
  3. God is a jealous God because God is love.  Real love is God.  God’s love for us is unmatched by human love.  His jealousy is not like our jealous thoughts that want what others have.  His jealousy comes from much higher thinking.  He wants to give all we could ever want, beyond our wildest dreams; as He watches us turn to lesser things with wicked outcomes that cannot possibly satisfy.  

Yes, God is jealous of what we run after, give our lives to get, and worship with all our attention.  God has so much more for us in His storehouse of blessings.  So, we must ask ourselves today, what are we thinking and doing that is making God jealous in our lives?

What is standing in the way of our total view if God and what He wants to give us?

Jesus came to teach us about the very things that make God jealous of our attention, love, and committed, bold devotion to Him.  Jesus reintroduced the commandments of God with explanations that went beyond the words written in stone.  Jesus said we are the living stones upon which God’s Word is written.  Jesus was the “Word made flesh” to teach us how to live like Him, giving our full attention to God, with nothing standing between God and mankind.  Jesus died and rose again so that sin no longer could be the jealous factor that keeps us from God. 

Repent of the sins that make God jealous and make things right with God.  Learn from God’s Word, listen to His Holy Spirit, so we may walk in His ways under His wings of protection.  Jesus saved us.  Believe in the redemption!  Live knowing that God loved you first and wanted you for His very own.  God longs to abide in us as we abide in Him.  This abiding diffuses all jealousy.

Lord,

We repent of all that draws our attention from you and your plan for our lives.  We repent of idols that get in the way of our view of you.  We repent of listening to the voices of this world that can shout above your voice of what is best for us.  Show me your ways, tell me which path to take, and I will follow.  There will be lessons to learn along the way and I am ready.  I am yours.  No turning back, no turning back.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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OBJECT LESSONS

God will not only tell us what to say but how to say it!  God is good and amazing in this way.  His Son, Jesus, was a Master Teacher of storytelling.  Jesus knew His audience well.  He knew His Message because He WAS the Message!  Jesus was Truth, The Way to God and Hope for Life forever with Him!  Jesus began with what His listeners already knew and understood; then He expanded their knowing and thinking by helping His listeners “see” what He was saying through object lessons. 

I love object lessons!  As a teacher, I used object lessons before, during and after most presentations for optimal learning.  Real learning is listening, seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, questioning, feeling, relating, being part of the process before doing.  Jesus nearly always INVOLVED his disciples in the object lesson.   “Can I get a volunteer”?

God always involves his servant, prophets, and teachers in the actions of His work.  Why?  Because the messenger needs to understand first so they can speak with confidence and clarity.  I know I cannot teach students what I do not know!  Messengers of God’s Word must take in the information and internalizing so that Truth becomes a part of their being.  Only then can messengers tell the God’s story with passionate understanding.  This is why the direction from God to Ezekiel in yesterday’s passage, “eat the scroll—all of it” makes sense.  Ezekiel heard God, read the scrolls given by God, digested the Truth of God so it could be said with knowledge of God.

Now God is directing Ezekiel to be a prophet messenger with an object lesson!  And it’s powerful!

Ezekiel 4, The Message

This Is What Sin Does 

1-3 “Now, son of man, take a brick and place it before you. Draw a picture of the city Jerusalem on it. Then make a model of a military siege against the brick: Build siege walls, construct a ramp, set up army camps, lay in battering rams around it. Then get an iron skillet and place it upright between you and the city—an iron wall. Face the model: The city shall be under siege and you shall be the besieger. This is a sign to the family of Israel.

4-5 Next lie on your left side and place the sin of the family of Israel on yourself. You will bear their sin for as many days as you lie on your side. The number of days you bear their sin will match the number of years of their sin, namely, 390. For 390 days you will bear the sin of the family of Israel.

6-7 Then, after you have done this, turn over and lie down on your right side and bear the sin of the family of Judah. Your assignment this time is to lie there for forty days, a day for each year of their sin. Look straight at the siege of Jerusalem. Roll up your sleeve, shake your bare arm, and preach against her.

“I will tie you up with ropes, tie you so you can’t move or turn over until you have finished the days of the siege.

9-12 Next I want you to take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, dried millet and spelt, and mix them in a bowl to make a flat bread. This is your food ration for the 390 days you lie on your side. Measure out about half a pound for each day and eat it on schedule. Also measure out your daily ration of about a pint of water and drink it on schedule. Eat the bread as you would a muffin. Bake the muffins out in the open where everyone can see you, using dried human dung for fuel.”

13 God said, “This is what the people of Israel are going to do: Among the pagan nations where I will drive them, they will eat foods that are strictly taboo to a holy people.”

14 I said, “God, my Master! Never! I’ve never contaminated myself with food like that. Since my youth I’ve never eaten anything forbidden by law, nothing found dead or violated by wild animals. I’ve never taken a single bite of forbidden food.”

15 “All right,” he said. “I’ll let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human dung.”

16-17 Then he said to me, “Son of man, I’m going to cut off all food from Jerusalem. The people will live on starvation rations, worrying where the next meal’s coming from, scrounging for the next drink of water. Famine conditions. People will look at one another, see nothing but skin and bones, and shake their heads. This is what sin does.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND TODAY?

Imagine how shocked the spectators were when Ezekiel’s face became hard and resolute and he placed a flat, iron griddle between his face and the drawing he made of the besieged city. The griddle was the kind of utensil that the priests used in the temple for preparing some of the offerings so it was recognizable. The iron griddle symbolized the wall that stood between the Lord and the sinful Jewish nation so that God could no longer look on them with approval and blessing. Ezekiel the priest could not pronounce on them the priestly blessing of, for God’s face was not shining on them with blessing.

All because of Jesus, the “wall” between God and mankind has been torn down.  Because of Jesus, we can repent of our sins in His Name and be set right with God—forever!  God’s Holy Spirit comes to live in the hearts of all believers to guide, confront, comfort, teach, and encourage us in our walk with God.  When we sin, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us. 

We become our own object lessons of what sin does in our lives, right?!  The lessons are everywhere around us!  Going our own way leads nowhere.  To get somewhere of significance, beauty and love with God, we respond with repentance.  Jesus will set us back on the right path immediately to God.  Jesus is “God with us.”  Our complete forgiveness is because of Jesus, His Son, who set us right with God by paying for our sins.

FOR CLARIFICATION…

Ezekiel didn’t “bear their sins” in the sense of atoning for them, for only the Son of God can do that (1 Peter 2:24). But “bearing the sins” of the nation before God was one of the ministries of the priesthood, and Ezekiel was a priest.  This was an object lesson to show the power of God as well as the lesson of what sin does in the lives of his people.  Nothing good happens when consumed by sin.

Lord,

I repent of all that offends you in me.  Create in me a clean heart.  Wash me white as snow.  Renew my spirit with Your Holy Spirit.  Restore the joy of your salvation at work in me.  Refresh my soul with all of you in all of me.  I know your’re not finished with me yet.

In Jesus Name, For your Glory, Amen

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